Market-Focused Innovation

This one’s pretty simple. What good does it do to invent something if you can’t bring it to market? Yet, so many companies do just that. Some of the more “techno-centric” organizations, in fact, simply judge their innovations by the number of patents they receive. Patents are nice, and I suppose if you’re part of some kind of academic or non-profit organization, the knowledge itself and the recognition serve as a useful end.

But I come from a different world – the business world. Successful innovation is judged by the revenues and profits and return on investment gained by the company.

So I like to see innovations actually result in marketable products with strong customer acceptance. I like to see R&D folks, and management, for that matter, actually spend time pounding the pavement to see how their products are doing in the marketplace. They’re talking to customers, talking to retailers, talking to service technicians, absorbing how well their product is doing in the marketplace. Of course, they’re also looking for new ideas.

One thing I also look for is strong feedback loops between the people in the front lines who man the call centers, help desks, service departments, installers, and so forth. Too often the R&D folks sit behind big high walls (literally and figuratively) within their organizations, all but impervious to valuable information gathered on the front lines. I like to see strong conduits between these front line folks and the innovators, through formal and informal channels. A “suggestion box” with participation really encouraged for ideas, not gripes, is a start. Getting front line participation in idea generation meetings and so forth is a great idea.

The Market-focused Innovation checklist

  • Is the goal to bring products to market or just to innovate for innovation’s sake?
  • Does the company succeed in bringing a high percentage of its innovations to market?
  • Do people inside the company (and R&D) get excited when a product comes to market?

Are innovators and decision-makers closely linked to customers and customer needs?

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